Introduction: Population-based health databases were used for the surveillance of asthma among workers in British Columbia for the period 1999 to 2003. The purpose was to identify high-risk groups of workers with asthma for further investigation, education and prevention.
Methods: Workers were identified using an employer-paid health premium field in the provincial health registry, and were linked to their physician visit, hospitalization, workers' compensation and pharmaceutical records; asthma cases were defined by the presence of an asthma diagnosis (International Classification of Diseases [ICD]-9-493) in these health records. Workers were assigned to an ''at-risk'' exposure group based on their industry of employment.
Results: For males, significantly higher asthma rates were observed for workers in the Utilities, Transport/Warehousing, Wood and Paper Manufacturing (Sawmills), Health Care/Social Assistance and Education industries. For females, significantly higher rates were found for those working in the Waste Management/Remediation and Health Care/Social Assistance industries.
Conclusion: The data confirm a high prevalence of active asthma in the working population of British Columbia, and in particular, higher rates among females compared to males and in industries with known respiratory sensitizers such as dust and chemical exposures.